LOLITA DARK KATSUCON INTERVIEW
LINK TO ZESSHOU PV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=io7GYVycgE8
Jrock is a vast genre that, over time, began to spread universally; it’s escaped the confines of being simply Japanese, with Jrock bands starting to spring and sprout all over the world. Lolita Dark is a five piece band of exactly that. Based in Los Angeles, California, they formed two years ago and have been playing together ever since.
Lolita Dark’s lineup consists of vocalist, leader, and rhythm guitarist Rayko, drummer Joey, bassist Rain, lead guitarist Patrick, and keyboardist May. May is currently in Japan, so filler keyboardist and vocalist Kaoru has been playing with them as well.
Their music is dark, progressional, and powerful. With lyrics bursting with emotion and instrumentals that can make your heart wrench in pain, Lolita Dark is definitely a band to keep your eye on. Recently, JRR had the pleasure of sitting down with them at Katsucon in Washington, DC and taking a moment to really get to know them.
JRR: Hi, thank you for this opportunity! If you guys could just introduce yourselves; maybe tell us how long you’ve been doing music?
Joey: I’m Joey, on the drums, I’ve been playing over 20 years. A long time.
Rayko: You started when you were two, then? (laugh)
Joey: Yeah, I started when I was two years old. (laugh.)
Rayko: I’m Rayko, of Lolita Dark. I am the founder, singer, writer, and the rhythm guitarist.
Joey: Head CEO.
Rayko: (laugh) CEO!
Rain: Rain. Bass. I love it. It’s awesome. Been playing 20 years.
Rayko: And engineer.
Rain: Engineer, yeah. The three of us kinda help produce everything.
Rayko: Well, all of us, really.
Patrick: I’m Patrick; I play lead guitar. I’ve been playing forever.
Patrick: Yes. Exactly. I started on bass; whatever people teach me, I learn and play.
Kaoru: My name is Kaoru, I go by Kaylu sometimes, and I’m a filler for this band. I’ve been playing with them about a month. I play keyboard and I co-sing with Ray.
JRR: How long has Lolita Dark been together?
Rayko: We debuted at Anime Expo in 2012. So…two years?
Joey: We’ve been playing together longer, but not as Lolita Dark.
Patrick: The three of them—Joey, Rain, and Rayko—they have another band. And I’ve been playing with them before Lolita Dark came around. All these songs were sorta side projects; no band was intended to really have it until two years ago.
Rain: We started off as kinda like a recording project.
Rayko: Yeah, and of course, I’m from Tokyo, Japan. I was born and raised in Shibuya and I always wanted to do something with my roots. I was always looking for a band that I can sing both in Japanese and English to reach out to fans both in Japan and here. So we just said, “Oh you know what, I have so many songs. Let’s start a band that we definitely believe in.” So this Lolita Dark project was born.
JRR: You guys are all from different places, so where are you from?
Joey: Originally, I’m from Tucson, AZ. And so is Rain.
Patrick: I’m born and raised Orange County. Behind the orange curtain; don’t leave.
Rayko: I’m from Shibuya, Tokyo.
Kaoru: I’m from Sapporo, Hokaido. Which is a North island in Japan.
JRR: You’re from so many different places. How did you guys all come together?
Rayko: We used to have this band—well we still have it—Dig Jelly. I started with a solo project and moved on to form this band, Dig Jelly, and I met Joey first. My producer at that time had this band that already had a trio. I needed a backup band so bad, because it was a solo project. So originally I got introduced to Joey and two other guys. Eventually we had musical differences with the two other guys, and Joey and I always had the same tastes. We always liked the same bands. Then we were looking for a bass player and Joey actually introduced Rain to us. And so we got together. Then we were desperate for the lead guitar player. Patrick had filled in for us a lot before with Dig Jelly and we’d always loved his playing. He’s a very emotional player and he has really good taste. He’s very intelligent, too. He’s got a great rhythm, I guess because he started out as bass. We asked Patrick to play with us, and he agreed, so we were very blessed for him to join us. Of course then, I needed a co-singer that could harmonize with me in Japanese and English, so I was looking for a Japanese co-singer that could play the keyboard and sing at the same time. And those people are really hard to find.
Patrick: Because the original pitch was, “Patrick, can you learn Japanese and sing really high?”
Rayko: And play the guitar.
Patrick: And play the guitar and the keyboard at the same time. So I said no.
Rayko: He was limited. (laugh.)
Patrick: I barely speak English, and that’s the only language I know, so singing in Japanese would not be good.
Rayko: So we got May, and she’s incredible, but right now she’s in Japan. So then it was, “Oh my gosh, she’s in Japan. Who do we go to who can sing and play the keyboard at the same time?” And thankfully, we found Kaoru.
JRR: You guys have been around for about two years now; where have you played? What’s the furthest you’ve been?
Rayko: We haven’t been out of the country yet, but as soon as we debuted at Anime Expo, we have been doing a lot of anime con circuit touring. We were the guest of honor at Nandesucon. And we play regular venues like House of Blues. We also have our monthly event called Tokyo Status in downtown Los Angeles. We also did PMX and AX two years in a row. After this we’re doing SKYTV, which is a European direct TV, so we’ll get to have our European debut right after this. We’re gonna go to Pennsylvania. We’re gonna go back to do some local shows, and then come back to the East Coast to play some more shows in Pittsburgh at the Hard Rock and a few other places. Our song Wounded Angel just became the theme song for Anime California in Gardenia. We’ll headline that as well. We do a lot of anime circuit shows at the moment, as well as local shows.
Joey: But this is the furthest seas we’ve been so far with Lolita Dark.
Rayko: We’re also going to play at a release party in San Jose soon for a CD called Phoenix Ash with a bunch of Jrock bands.
JRR: Rayko, you said you’re from Tokyo. When did you come to the states?
Rayko: When I was thirteen. It was quite the change. My sister was already married and she was living here. I was gonna come here with my surf buddies, just to come here and like hang out. And I realized I liked it here; it’s so much free-er. I think I’m just gonna park my ass right here. (laugh.) I just ended up staying here.
JRR: What are some of your musical influences? What’s a band or artist you look up to or do you aspire to be like?
Rayko: I look up to Kaoru-chan. (laugh.)
Kaoru: Oh my God…(laugh.) I really like a lot of singer/songwriters. It doesn’t really have to be any specific genre. I used to play classic piano for fifteen years. So I’ve been really into classic music growing up. I grew up with a lot of J-pop and J-rock. I also liked a lot of R&B and classic rock. But now it’s more like I like Sheryl Crow and…singer/songwriters. They can go as a solo artist or with a band—it’s like a different level every time they have a show. And the songs feel more like they fit my heart better. The Lolita Dark songs, written by Rayko and these talented people, they are new to me. I haven’t played this type of music before. I’ve known them for a couple years. The first time I saw them was right after the tsunami relief fundraiser. I thought they were really good; we saw at a lot of different functions. They inspired me as a band with how well they work together and how tight they are. Their energy is just so good. They inspire me.
Rayko: Thank you.
Patrick: I’ve been influenced by so many things. I mostly will stick to a band for a period of time then switch to the next one. Right now it’s been a lot of Queens of the Stone Age. I’ve always listened to a lot of Frank Zappa. Just really obscure. Not in the guitar sense like, “I’m a guitar player, I’m gonna listen to a lot of Frank Zappa,” but musically I really get into it. I like Jazz, Blues. When I first got into guitar, I learned a lot of Red Hot Chili Peppers, because when I was a kid, that was the thing to do: Join a tribute band.
Rain: That’s still the thing to do.
Patrick: Yeah, that’s still the thing to do. (laugh.) We did Red Hot Chili Peppers and I originally started out playing Bass, so I really got a grasp for just rhythmic playing as opposed to shredding. I really like to try not to “shred” as much as possible, because so many people can do it. So I tried to make it a little bit different, which is why I don’t really like to listen to a lot of Van Halen and stuff. A lot of rhythmic players or just off the wall guitar playing, for me.
Rain: I love all types of music. I have a problem really deciding. Sometimes I love Tupac. Sometimes I just wanna listen to Segovia. Sometimes I’m in a Django Reinhart mood and sometimes I’m in a country mood. Bluegrass, I love. I love great shredding guitar players. I love really avant-garde jazz. I love great songs. I love singer/songwriters. I love passionate, simple songs, or I love something really complicated. I guess the musicians I have played with have been more of an inspiration. Because it teaches me to learn and accommodate with someone else’s emotions. Even if they’re not as good as you, they’re still coming at it from a different perspective. And they’re still teaching you, if you attempt to play with them, to get a different feel. Playing with all of these guys has been very inspirational to me. Rayko writes a lot of songs that don’t fit with our old band or even fit with Lolita Dark, but we still do them and record them on the side and maybe we’ll go back to it. Time is my inspiration.
Rayko: My inspiration is you guys. People’s lives are very inspiring to me. When I write, I just study people. I’m so interested in finding out how you got here, what made you who you are today, so my writing process isn’t only lyrical but the music comes to my head. I have a very complex personality and grew up very complex. You guys fill in my blank canvas. Inspiration comes from everyday life. Singing-wise, my inspirations are Matthew Bellamy from Muse and Mercury from Queen. I try to incorporate a lot of their singing styles because I love the passion they have. Even the singer from My Chemical Romance. Even Alanis Morrisette from the early days. Guitar playing, I just like to be like one of the dudes. I’ve always been a tomboy. Anything really; I want to run before I walk. I came to the musical world like Kaoru-chan—through classical piano. My parents were Jazz fans. They used to have Jazz parties once a month. After six thirty, we had to go upstairs, and who knew what was going on downstairs. (laugh.)
Rain: You knew. (laugh.)
Rayko: (laugh.) And Joey, I learned the drums from him. I said, “Joey, I want to learn Chop Suey first.”
Joey: I tried to teach her the basics, and she always wanted to do the hardest stuff first. (laugh.)
Rayko: I haven’t really tried the bass yet..
Rain: I have a recording of you playing the bass.
Rayko: Yeah…the rhythm, yeah. I can’t do what Rain does, though. He’s much better. But yeah, those are my influences. Peoples’ lives.
Rain: Rayko doesn’t give herself enough credit. She honestly masters just about anything she wants to. It’s really inspiring to me; it just sorta comes out of her.
Rayko: I am your inspiration?
Rain: Yeah, that’s what I said. (laugh.) I’m reiterating it. Underlining it. Putting a circle around it. It’s there.
Joey: That’s a very hard question, because there’s so many different genres that I like, and there’s so many parts of one’s self that you can really tap into any of them. So it’s really just about being a conduit to whatever you’re feeling at the time. I really have no inspiration to draw from any particular person.
Patrick: We play in so many different projects and lineups that we just sorta take from all those projects and bring them to the table in everything we do.
Rayko: I think it’s a really good thing, because people get bored of just the same thing over and over again. We have so much to incorporate into on little bucket of sound.
JRR: If you had to choose, what’s your favorite thing to listen to?
Joey: Me personally, I can’t really name anything because there’s just so many. It’s impossible to choose. I had a band I was doing that mixed Elvis and KISS as a tribute, so it’s really whatever.
Rayko: It depends on my mood. When I’m really fired up I love listening to Rage Against the Machine. I love Muse when I want to be emotional—when I wanna cry. The angst, the pain—if I want to relate to something, I listen to Muse. When I can’t sleep I start playing classical pieces on my keyboard. Sometimes I fall asleep on the keys.
Rain: It’s very calming.
Rayko: Sometimes I fall asleep in the vocal booth.
Joey: Yeah we’ll be like, “Okay, hey, it’s your turn…Hello? Hello?”
Rain: We’d hit record and just get silence. (laugh.)
Rayko: Yeah, I get into my world and I just sorta get lost for a few seconds.
Rayko: Okay, hours. (laugh.)
Rain: It’s so hard to choose..
Rayko: His first concert was Weird Al!
Rain: I played Weird Al twice. He’s a master. I can always get down to James Brown. The Portershead. That is some great sex music. It’s moody and ugh. I love something I can move to. But then I like a single piano piece. Background music.
Rayko: Can I say something? (laugh.)
Rayko: We’re roommates, and every time he goes to the bathroom, he plays this classical piece …
Rain: Oh! The Flower Duet by Delibes Lakme.
Rayko: Yes! Just, “Laaalalala!” He plays it for like, thirty minutes!
Rain: Yeah…I’m busy in there.
Rayko: It’s weird bathroom music!
Rain: Well, you’ve gotta pick something for that. And Abbott Costello’s “Who’s on First” gets old after a while.
Joey: “Who’s on First” never gets old!
Patrick: Songwriters I’m really into right now are like Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age, but I really like when he writes for Crooked Vultures or Eagles of Death Metal. Desert Sessions where they basically just go into a house for a month, get drunk, record, and that’s an album. His work ethic and how much he takes on at a time for writing, I really love that sort of thing. Corey Taylor from Slipknot has a lot on the side, but I love the idea of a million things at once. The less work and more music I can do, the happier I am. It inspires me to see others doing that.
Kaoru: I went to see Pink last year. She’s my favorite. She writes very good songs. Very passionate and energetic and she writes good ballads too. I like Pink. I’ve been listening to a lot of my friend’s musical stuff. I listen to Lolita Dark and a lot of my Japanese artist friends back in Japan. Major artists sometimes have, maybe because of the record company or their deal, but they feel like they’re sorta categorized or stereotyped. They feel stunted sometimes. I don’t want people signed indies; just people that work hard by themselves. It feels more passionate and full of energy in the music. It feels free. That is what inspires me; indies and unsigned. It’s unique.
JRR: You’ve mentioned before that a lot of your music expressed the pain from the tsunami in Japan. That was such a big issue that impacted the entire world and not just Japan. How did that make all of you feel? It had to hit close to home.
Rayko: Definitely. That day, the second, I was here. My mother was in Tokyo. It was just so catastrophic. Even though we got a lot of earthquakes and everything was built on rollers, where it happened, it was in a remote area in the countryside. My heart just plummeted. I called my mom for two and a half days and couldn’t get through to her. Finally, when I got through, she said she was in a department store, in the shoe section, and she said all of a sudden, she saw the shoes flying across the store. Across the street, the glass in the Starbucks shattered and people started running and she said she couldn’t think of anything else to do but to start grouping people together in sections based on where they’re from. Then she started to make them carpool home in their groups safely. She’s always been a natural leader. I told her I was proud of her, but I wanted her out of there. I wanted her to take the next plane and come. She didn’t want to leave, but I convinced her to come after about three or four days. As a writer, all the songs started overflowing in my mind. I wrote Mad Times and we put together a lot of footage from the tsunami, just to remember. We did a fundraiser; we raised about $20,000. I think that, when the shock value goes away, people stop talking about it. The radiation is still going on today. I wish I could bring all my family members over here; my mom is here now but I had to become a citizen to sponsor her and give up my Japanese citizenship. But I would die for my mother, so I had to do that. It affected everyone in so many ways.
Kaoru: On that day, I had my Japanese friends over for an okonamiyaki party. We started talking to our friends back in Tokyo over Skype. The friend we were talking to stopped and said, “Hey we just got an earthquake,” but then she started screaming. We told her not to panic, but it kept going on and off. She was by herself and we were all sitting stunned in my living room in silence. We had no idea what was going on. So we decided to turn on the news and they started showing the tsunami videos live. One of the girls I had over was from Sendai, so she was afraid for her sister and her mom. But we couldn’t get through any of the phone lines. They were okay, though, once we finally got through. My parents are in Hokkaido, but it wasn’t anything like the other cities. After that, we just watched the news in silence for like two or three hours. My heart just hurt. I knew I needed to stay calm. That weekend we did our first fundraising event in Little Tokyo. We raised decent money, but the entire time it was hard to keep from panicking. I started organizing a lot of charities and talking to people, and that helped me calm down. I couldn’t really write songs; I felt so blank.
JRR: To lighten the mood back up, do you guys have any funny anecdotes or stories from recording?
Joey: Other than the music Rain plays? (laugh.)
Rain: (laugh.) We’re really boring…
Patrick: There’s just so many little things that it’s hard to think of a single time.
Rayko: Yeah, it’s always so fun. (Iaugh.) We have a blast together. I think one thing about this band is that not only are we serious and very articulate about what we do, but we have so much fun together. I think that is very important to making and keeping a band. A band should be like a family. So we always have like the group therapist—someone to break the ice. But we always make it fun.
Kaoru: Sometimes because of the job situation, we have to start rehearsal at midnight. Everyone thinks we’re a little crazy.
JRR: What are Lolita Dark’s plans for the future? Any markets you’d like to break into or places to go?
Rayko: We’d love to play shows in Japan; we’d also really like to go to Europe. The SKYTV debut is very important to us. We would love to go to Germany, UK, France. All of those would be fun.
Rain: We’d like to play as much as possible.
Patrick: Like Rain said, we just really want to play everywhere and branch out as much as possible. We want all our fans to connect with our music. We’ve had a lot of people all, “I wanna make an AMV to your music!!” It translates really well in this sort of situation. We get to walk around and see people and talk to people; conventions are such a great opportunity for us. In a club, people are there to see you, but by the time you’re done putting everything away after your show, everyone’s leaving. Conventions are fun because we really get to interact with everyone.
JRR: Have you met fans outside of the states?
Rayko: We do! Our Facebook helps us meet a lot of fans. I guess this anime thing is really universal—there’s a lot of big conventions all over the world and I never realized how widespread it is or how many people all over the world find our music through it. People just find us sometimes through their love in anime. So we get a lot of hits and messages from all over the country, China, Korea, Japan, France. Even New Zealand. People who are into anime really like to talk to us. Anime is a really great bridge between us and our music.
Interview by: Kim A.
Edited by: Deb V.
Photos by: Kaitlyn Samuels